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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

An Indo-Pak TV production set in the UAE

The two countries come together in a TV production set in the UAE's subcontinental communities.
Lead actors left, Noman Habib and right, Priyal Gor at the filming of  Parwaaz. Rebecca Rees / The National
Lead actors left, Noman Habib and right, Priyal Gor at the filming of Parwaaz. Rebecca Rees / The National

A unique multinational, multicultural mix takes centre stage in the first Indian TV drama to be entirely filmed in the UAE in recent years.

Parwaaz – meaning to take flight – debuts on Zee TV Middle East on November 7. The 13-episode drama tells the story of two friends – Adarsh from India and Sikander from Pakistan.

Beginning in the 1990s and spanning 15 years, each hour-long episode reveals their stories through a series of flashbacks – and producers Magnum Opus say viewers will be on the edge of their seats until the very end.

“We are continuing in this region what we started with the music show Ummeed – which was getting Pakistani and Indian artists together.” says Manoj Mathew, Zee TV’s chief content and creative officer.

“This is a basic experiment to work across borders in fiction and create serious content for this part of the world that can be shared globally on our other networks.

“The UAE has been a lovely home country for so many of us expats for so long, but we have always got entertainment content from our own countries. Parwaaz is a celebration of making relevant content from this region, which people would identify with in terms of story, locations and stars.

“This serial will tell the stories of so many people who call this country home.”

Many of the supporting cast and crew were hired locally but the main actors were flown in from India and Pakistan.

The Pakistani actor Noman Habib (who has appeared in the film Mera Naam Shahid Afridi Hai, and numerous Pakistani TV dramas) plays Sikander.

“I have always wanted to work on a project that highlights the bigger issues of a culture or a country and this is exactly what this story is about,” he says.

“The character I play, Sikander, belongs to Pakistan and when he comes here, Adarsh is the first person he meets. Adarsh is from India. Both came here for jobs, but it doesn’t work out and they face similar struggles, becoming really close friends over the years. So, the play encourages Indian and Pakistani brotherhood and cultural exchange.”

Indian actor Devansa Vasan, who plays Adarsh, says: “Adarsh is a very decent guy. The kind who knows what is wrong and right. He wants to be successful in life, but by taking the right path. Sikander is a different character. Though he is a nice guy, he takes shortcuts.

“Adarsh comes to Dubai on a job offer and finds out that he has been cheated by the employment agents. He meets Sikander who has had the same happen to him. Together, they both decide to stay and try their luck. When they told me that my co-actor, Noman, is from Pakistan, I was really excited to work with him.”

The opportunity to work with actors from across the border was a big draw for the cast.

“This is my second time working with Indian actors, and it has been an amazing experience,” says the Pakistani actress Suzain Fatima, who plays Adarsh’s wife. “Initially, I didn’t know I would play an Indian girl, and when I found out I was so happy. They do make plays in Pakistan where they have Hindu or Indian characters, but I never got a chance to be a part of one, though I really wanted to.

“There were no major preparations as such, except for maybe in terms of reflecting the fashion of that decade. Apart from that, I had to tone down my Urdu a bit to make it sound like Hindi, and pepper my speech with Hindi words.

“In fact, I think I got into character so well that, now, even when I am not shooting and talking to my friends or family, they detect a bit of a Hindi undertone.”

Indian actress Priyal Gor, who plays Sikander’s Pakistani wife, says that she found it very easy to get into the character.

“In all our TV serials back home, we talk in Urdu,” she says. “Even in our films, it’s Urdu, not Hindi. Also, I have just done a Tamil film where I play a Pakistani girl, so I have kind of had my practice already.

“The best part about the series is that I am playing a Pakistani girl, and the Pakistani girl is playing an Indian girl. This goes to show that we really are one and there should be no animosity.

“Secondly, because it is just 13 episodes, the story moves along at a really good pace. Within those 13 episodes, you get the story of 15 years and it does not drag at all.”

Parwaaz begins at 9.30pm tomorrow on Zee TV Middle East. See www.zeetvme.comfor additional broadcast times

artslife@thenational.ae